If you’re a STEM student, you’ve probably been working hard. No one likes to get behind in a course involving science, technology, engineering or math.
So this might be the time to think about what happens after high school graduation - not about college but about not going to college.
It’s not crazy talk. A gap year or semester away from a traditional classroom might be a reset button for your brain or just the thing to kick-start the next phase of your life. You can network, gain hands-on work lab experience, or even learn a language that would help in your research.
For example, STEM student Steven Schwab is in Brazil this year for a bridge year through Global Citizen Year, a San Diego-based program.
“Never did I expect that I’d be working at a local university (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Florianópolis, Brazil) where I’ve had the opportunity to work in a biotechnology laboratory, to help teach English, and to expand Google maps to places that they haven’t ventured yet,” he says.
What could you do on your time away from a classroom? Here are just a few examples:
Medical programs let you shadow doctors and nurses and volunteer in clinics or other public-health settings. This might be the time to figure out if medical training is really right for you.
Use your science and technology skills to take a closer look at the developing world and gain a focus for further study.
You could dive further into marine biology or even spend a semester at sea.
Science is big part of environmental responsibility. Many gap programs offer opportunities to help with research or to see how the latest techniques make a difference in, say, water quality or wildlife conservation.
You could work in agriculture or sustainability programs, either to gain a better understanding of farming techniques or to research green methods.
In immersion programs, you can learn a language well enough to communicate with scientists on the other side of the world or to talk to people when you’re surveying or collecting data.